How to Know What to Write About
It’s the bane of every writer or blogger’s existence: what do I write about? These four tips for finding inspiration as a writer are inspired by a parable about salt and light. It’s a Jesus parable, but you don’t have to be a believer to be encouraged.
If you want to make writing part of your daily life because you’re serious about being a writer (as opposed to searching for “how to know what to write” about because you’re a student with an essay assignment), get a book like A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement by Barbara Abercrombie. It doesn’t have to be a new year to start your daily writing practice! This book is collection of anecdotes, lessons, quotes, and prompts from Abercrombie, who is a writing teacher. She offers nuts-and-bolts solutions to help you know what to write about, hand-holding commiseration, and epiphany-fueling insights from fellow writers, including Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and her students who have gotten published.
I’ve never had a problem finding topics to write about – my problem is that I get bored with writing. I love starting blogs (everything from the Dog Blog to Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility to Counselors’ Corner), but in the past I just couldn’t seem to stay connected with one blog, one idea, one type of website. I couldn’t even stick with one magazine when I was freelance writing. I was always pitching new magazines, e-zines, newspapers.
After two long years of searching for what to write about while getting my MSW (Master of Social Work) and working with Big Brothers of Vancouver, I finally came up with my Big Idea! I know what I want to write about! I’m Putting Parables Into Practice. I love this idea because it allows me to work on all my blogs so I don’t get bored, incorporate my Christian spirituality, write creatively, and help people solve problems (such as how to know what to write about 🙂 ).
So, my first tip for knowing what to write about is to be patient. It may take time for your Big Idea to hit you….and it will be worth the wait. If you already know what to write about but get distracted, read How to Stay Focused on Writing. And, let me show you how I intend to put parables into practice on my blogs…
The Salt and Light Parable
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:12-16, The Message.
How to Know What to Write About
You don’t have to be a Christian to put the parable of the salt and light into practice as a writer. You need only be open-minded and willing to think differently than you’ve been doing before…
Get out of your shaker
What good is salt if it sits in the shaker? Similarly, how can you – and your writing – have a positive impact on the world if you don’t write? Before you can even start figuring out what to write about, you have to have courage to share your ideas, opinions, and perspective. If you’re hiding your writing and not allowing people to read your blog or article pitches or sample chapters or novel, then you may not be ready to shake your words onto the dishes of this world. “This little light of mine….I’m gonna let it shine” is a perfect example of putting a parable into practice as a writer!
Figure out who you want to write for
This tip on how to know what to write about has been shared several times on this blog. Most recently, I discussed it in How Writers Find Ideas for Magazine Articles and Blog Posts. Do you know your audience? I don’t. I have too many Quips and Tips blogs to connect with my readers, and the truth is that building an online community is not a priority for me. I want to write. I want to think, and share, and help, and serve. I don’t really know who I’m writing for, and that may be why it took me so long to know what to write about. I’m writing for whoever God brings to my blogs. I’m writing for people who have problems, to show them they’re not alone. I’m writing for me. So I guess I do know who I’m writing for! Do you know who you’re writing for?
Know that your writing affects other people
In the salt and light parable, Jesus says that if you open up to others and be generous with your life, you’ll prompt people to open up to God. I believe you’ll also help them heal – and you’ll walk them home. You’ll show readers they’re not alone in this world with their problems. This is huge! It’s taken me years to realize how much of an impact I have on readers because of my own insecurities and need for approval. But now that I have a meaning and purpose for writing, it doesn’t matter how much or little my writing affects other people. I believe I am having an impact, and that’s enough. I don’t need a certain number of readers or comments or traffic or even income to know my writing has an effect. How is this a tip on how to know what to write about? Maybe it’s not. You tell me.
Get regular hits of inspiration from above
My final tip on knowing what to write about is to find a consistent source of inspiration and encouragement. Not a human source! Connect with God. Set up a steady stream of power, freedom, love, peace, and joy in your life. Spend time with Him every morning. I’ve been writing letters to God every morning for several months now, and I am amazed at how stable, free, connected, and empowered I feel. I’m not alone.
It took a long time for me to figure out what to write about on my Quips and Tips blogs, but that time was full of growth. Without my time wandering in the desert trying to find my calling, I never would’ve stumbled on what I feel like I’m meant to do: Put Parables Into Practice.
I welcome your thoughts on how to know what to write about! Go well, fellow scribes.
For more tips on how to know what to write about, read How to Write When You Have No Ideas.